I’ve been working with video editing for a while now, and HD video editing since I got my first HD camera back in November. Since then I’ve changed cameras a couple times and am now using the Canon Vixia HF10 which is a flash-based AVCHD camera. I upgraded to this camera from a Aiptek ActionHD camera. The difference in quality between the two is no contest at all – with the Canon crushing the Aiptek in every possible way. The only feature from the Aiptek I miss however is the the Aiptek had three settings: 720p (30 frames per second), 720p (60 frames per second), and 1080p (30 frames per second). The 720p60 setting was really nice for high motion stuff.
You can read online about the debate over whether 1080p is really worth it as compared to 720p (with most saying that unless you’re looking at sceens above 50′ or sitting super-close (like computer monitor close) to small displays you won’t notice a difference (and I agree with this assessment). I have a 37-inch that can do 1080p and from where I sit normally you can’t tell the difference. But, what almost everyone agrees on is that the higher frame rate of 720p60 used in broadcasts by ESPN, ABC, and Fox when televising sports, is definitely noticeable compared to the standard 30 frames per second rate. Motion appears much smoother and more life-like, even with the lower resolution.
The problem is that the HF10 only supports recording in 1080i60, 1080p30, and 1080p24. Up and until now I’ve used the 1080p30 because it produces 30 full images per second which is great for outputting to digital sources like websites, etc. But a week or so ago I took some 1080i60 footage, brought it home, popped the flash card in my PS3 and played it back and was amazed by how smooth it looked – even compared to the normal 1080p30 footage. Then I realized that the PS3 was taking that 1080i60 footage, and deinterlacing it to display at 1080p60.
That got me thinking – is there a way to do that permanently? Shoot 1080i footage and convert it to 720p60? 1080p60 isn’t an option because the AVCHD standard doesn’t support it, but it does support 720p60. And I found a way… here it is (for Mac users)
1) Shoot all footage in normal 1080i60 mode
2) Edit and save all footage at 1080i60 – export as Apple Intermediate Codec and whatever type of audio you like best. Exporting at AIC just saves time at this point in the game, and makes the next step easier.
3) Once the file is exported download JES Deinterlacer and open it up. Select the file you exported and add it to the project. Make sure on the input window that “Interlaced” is checked. Then under project select standards conversion in the drop down menu and click on 1280x720p60. Then under Output make sure it’s set to “direct” with outputting as Apple Intermediate Codec.
4) Click OK and wait for your newly deinterlaced 720p60 file to come out…
5) Once you have that file you can convert it into whatever format you like. My experience has been that editing and converting works best in lossy formats like AIC as opposed to compared formats like MPEG-2 or h.264
To burn to disc for playback on AVCHD players simply add to Toast and burn away!
It is safe to say that going forward I will probably work mainly with 1080i footage and convert it to 720p60 for production and release.
The other day I conceded to a friend of mine that he was right when he said that both HD DVD and Blu-Ray were going to be like the eight track: largely irrelevant in the long term. At the time I was under the impression that HD movies were going to be available for rent. Also this week, a number of publications began speculating that Apple TV would win the “format war” over Blu-Ray and HD DVD. While I initially thought that… I now am going back to my original position.
Where I think Apple TV can do some damage is to Netflix and Blockbuster. While slightly on the pricey side, especially for HD movie rentals ($4.99) the Apple TV does offer a viable and competitive program. Plus, it does a whole lot more than your average DVD player, including brings your entire digital music collection into your living room as well as your photos. That feature set is pretty compelling. Plus the convenience of renting from your home will be nice.
The problem is that while people like to rent movies, they also like to purchase them. Just look at the number of DVDs being sold – last year 23.4 billion dollars were spent on DVDs here in the United States (although that was down slightly from the year before). While the slight decrease can he attributed to any number of factors (emergence of HD DVD and Blu-Ray, more digital access to movies) it’s still a heck of a lot of money and shows that there’s still a huge market for video. The problem is that you cannot purchase HD editions of movies online (the only exception to this is HD movies On-Demand that you can purchase through your cable or satellite provider). The problem there is that there is no good way to archive things you purchase from your cable or satellite provider. The best you can do is to connect them to a DVD recorder and record them in good old fashioned SD with stereo audio. Hardly the high definition with surround sound that people are looking for. The other option is to let it chew up space on your DVR…
Finally, it appears clear that movie studios are not stupid, and are going to keep riding the horse that has been selling, and that’s physical media. One can only imagine that if Apple had it’s way, we’d be able to purchase HD movies from the Apple Store. But Apple has had enough trouble getting movie studio to sell the DVD quality versions (which only a few studios do anyway) let alone trying to get the HD versions. As long as the movie studios remain dedicated to physical media (as they presently are), I predict that for the next five to ten years at least, physical media will remain the main way people watch their movies. Or, until the movie studios decide to change their business models for distribution.
When Apple introduced the Apple TV I was excited, but annoyed by the limited functionality of it. Rumors prior to this week’s Mac World Expo were flying and almost everyone was betting that Steve Jobs would introduce some change to the Apple TV. Well, they were right – and originally I was really excited about the change.
Because they didn’t live webcast the event, I missed a major point. When Steve Jobs unveiled the iTunes Movie Rentals I was excited, especially when they announced that they would make movies available in HD with 5.1 surround sound. I mistakenly assumed two things. (1) That if a movie was available for rent, it would be available for purchase (2) If a movie could be rented in HD via Apple TV it could also be rented over from iTunes directly. As time wore on, it became clear that neither was true. HD movies are only available for rent via Apple TV and are not available for purchase.
Based on a Business Week article I read today, and I suspect that they’re right, this wasn’t entirely Apple’s fault. In the ideal world Apple would want both features that I want to be available, but the movie studios wouldn’t budge. Why? Because they fear that if they went to the Apple digital distribution route they’d lose out on DVD and Blu-Ray/HD DVD sales. And the truth is, they’re right. Ratatouille is available for purchase for $15 on the iTunes Store, which is the identical price that the DVD sells for on Amazon.com. The Blu-Ray version is $20. Even if an HD version of Ratatouille cost my $20 through iTunes I’d be likely to buy it only because adding an Apple TV to my entertainment system costs much less than a Blu-Ray player and delivers a whole lot more functionality than a Blu-Ray player.
But alas, it looks like I’ll be living in the world of upconverted DVDs for a while longer. Until I can purchase HD movies online there’s no service that I think is viable.