The upside, of course, is that tape is never a factor; with Hitachi's DV-MZ580A and similar models, you also get automatic thumbnail creation.
The downsides are several:
• The video is converted on-the-fly to MPEG-2, which immediately compromises video quality by using an encoder optimized for speed rather than quality; this may also mean a second MPEG-2 encode after the video is edited and augmented with transitions and other effects, with the attendant degradation in quality
• The mini-DVD discs used in these recorders are expensive, and the DVD-Rs are, of course, write once-only, which may be an issue for some users
• Logically, the recorders write DVD-VR discs, which some set-tops, ROM drives, and software NLEs don't support
• DVD-RAM discs offer limited playback compatibility
• Most DVD camcorders are single-chip models with minimal on-camera controls.
Blue laser-based units that record directly to high-density discs may change the demographic appeal of optical disc-based cameras, but most of the current crop of DVD camcorders are single-chip, low-cost consumer products, with minimal appeal to professionals. One exception is Hitachi's CR-D10, which takes the approach of camera-mountable hard disk video recorders by providing a dockable recorder appendage to select compatible cameras. Designed to bring direct-to-disc recording to broadcast and professional camcorder use, according to Hitachi, the CR-D10 uses 8cm DVD-RAM media and offers 4.7GB of storage. The recorder creates DVD-VR discs (the only option for on-the-fly recording since disc parameters cannot be set—as with DVD-Video—before recording begins) using MPEG-2 video recorded in two modes: high picture-quality (40 minutes) and standard picture-quality (60 minutes).
A 2.5-inch LCD offers the usual video preview during shooting, but also provides menu navigation for access to the clips on the inserted disc. The CR-D10 detaches from the camcorder and can be connected to the user's PC via USB 1.1; the disc can also be removed and be used in a DVD-RAM-compatible DVD-ROM drive, on the off chance the user has one. A smattering of NLEs, such as Ulead's MediaStudio Pro, have built-in native support for the DVD-VR format, which allows them to read content directly off the disc, either in a RAM-compatible drive or via the USB connection. In either case, the RAM format allows for slightly-faster-than-real-time data transfers, so it offers a small advantage in capture speed over the tape approach (and the process is certainly less sensitive and susceptible to frame-dropping).
Where DVD-VR is not supported, digital-to-digital capture with a DVD camcorder is not possible. Editors will need to use the analog audio and video outs and capture the footage to their PC via a supported analog capture card or A/D converter box.
Station to Station
Joel Cogan, chief engineer at Kansas City municipal cable station KCMO, is a recent convert to tapeless storage. Each staffer at the four-person station has his or her own FS-3 unit to run with a JVC GY-DV5000 camcorder, and Cogan says KCMO recently acquired "a new CapDiv from Laird for use in a small, three-camera flight pack."
KCMO's rolling stock includes two GY-DV5000 cameras and four 40GB removable disks—"one for each shooter." Having a drive for each member of the station staff "keeps any confusion on tape ownership and storage to a minimum," he says.
The station made the move to tapeless for several reasons, foremost among them the time savings on the capture/editing end and "to limit the need for tape wear-and-tear." With a tape-only approach, he says, "dropout is always a factor. There is no dropout on the HDD—and if there is, you have bigger problems."
Cogan also cites the advanced features of the FS-3 as a plus on the shooting end. "Retro Record is a great feature, and we have it activated on both cameras. It eats up a little more battery power but is worth it. We get better reactions and are able to catch little tidbits when we have a few seconds of ‘pre-record.'
"Our people have the option of combined or separate recording," he continues. "I recommend combined—that way, if there is a drive failure, there is tape backup and vice versa." KCMO's shooters use both slave mode, where operation of the FS-3 is subordinate to the VTR controls on the camera, or in panel control where VTR operation of the FS-3 is separate. Other options he describes include using the the FS-3 as a sort of backup where if the tape runs out, the drive starts recording.
Back in the studio, KCMO uses Adobe Premiere for editing, although Cogan says "we are waiting for the Avid Studio system. So far I have been able to plug the HDD into my FireWire card and my XP box just brings it up as a new drive. Copy the clips to my media drives, import, and away I go. No capture and digitize. You gotta love that."
companies mentioned in this article
Laird Telemedia, www.lairdtelemedia.com
Adobe Systems, Inc., www.adobe.com
MCE Technologies, www.mcetech.com
Apple Computer, Inc., www.apple.com
nNovia, Inc., www.nnovia.com
Avid Technology, www.avid.com
Pinnacle Systems, Inc., www.pinnaclesys.com
Focus Enhancements, www.focusinfo.com
Sony Electronics, Inc., http://bscc.sel.sony.com
Hitachi, Ltd., www.hitachi.com
Sony Pictures Digital, www.mediasoftware.sonypictures.com
JVC America, www.jvc.com