U kijkt naar de archieven van 2006.

Lots of people have been saying that Europe would learn from the HD experience in America and choose one, and only one, HD format as opposed to ATSC which defines about 18 different formats. The question has always been: which one? 720p50 or 1080i50?

Well, this being Europe, the answer is what I would expect: both formats are allowed. While the EBU is all for 720p50, the reality is that:

  1. Europe’s first HD station, Euro1080, broadcasts 1080i only.
  2. Sky HD in the UK broadcasts 720p and 1080i.
  3. EICTA, an assocation of the mayor European consumer electronics manufacturers, announced an HD TV and HD Ready logo program. The minimum requirements for an HD Ready TV display are: being able to display 720p50, 720p60, 1080i50 and 1080i60. An HD TV labeled HD receiver must support 720p50 and 1080i50 in the form of an MPEG 2 or MPEG 4 AVC compressed stream. I don’t know why they didn’t include 720p60 and 1080i60 in the HD TV requirements, nor do I know why the receiver must be called HD TV and the display HD Ready.

I believe that the logo program by EICTA is far more important than whatever the EBU has to say. The EBU is primary a union of the old, once state owned, now heavily subsidized, national broadcasters. Commercial TV stations take no part in it, although they will most likely spearhead the HD revolution since the national broadcasters are obliged to reach the largest audience possible in the most economical way.

Another believe of mine is that 1280×720 is not a big enough step above PAL’s 720×576 resolution, especialy since most TV’s are 16:9 now and thus have a 1024×576 equivalent square pixel size. 1080 line displays will sell a lot easier. Remember, HD isn’t even born over here. I’ve yet to meet someone with an HD (Ready) TV.

Recently, a “shootout” with 4 affordable HD cameras and 2 not so affordable HD cameras was conducted by Adam Wilt, Barry Green and others. The camera’s included were: a Canon XL-H1 ($10000), JVC HD-100 ($5500), Panasonic HVX-200 ($6000 + storage costs) and a Sony Z1 ($5000). The not so affordable cameras were a Sony F900 (CineAlta) (+ $50000) and a Panasonic Varicam. Adam Wilt’s write up can be found on DV.com (registration required, look for an article called “Four Affordable HD Camcorders Compared”). Barry Green’s take and subsequent responses can be found in this 43 page thread.

I’m not going to repeat everything written about the shootout but I’ll point out some things that interest me instead. Number one being resolution: the 4 affordable camcorders all have 1/3 inch CCDs. They’re trying to create a 1920×1080 pixel image out of a 4.8×3.6 mm imaging area, and it seems they’re hitting the limit of what affordable lenses can do at the moment. It doesn’t surprise me that the Canon and JVC come out at the top. Both have interchangeable lenses. Canon is a well respected lens maker and the JVC has a Fujinon lens. Even though, the Canon tops out at 800 horizontal TV lines and 700 vertical lines, the JVC measures at 700 H and 700 V (it’s only recording at 1280×720), the Sony at 550 H and 700 V and the Panasonic trails at 550 H and 540 V (Adam Wilt’s numbers, with reserve about the Panasonic). This means that the image from the Panasonic could very well be recorded at DV resolution, the Sony would lose some vertical resolution if we did and the Canon and JVC would lose some more. But they’re nowhere near the CineAlta’s > 1000 H and > 1000 V numbers. No wonder people call them half HD or 1.5 SD cameras.

I wonder what people will think of footage shot with any of these cameras once they’re used to real 1080i material shown on a native 1080 line monitor. That doesn’t mean the footage shot with these cameras isn’t better than DV at all – it is – but I think most viewers are a bit too optimistic considering almost all HDTV’s sold right now are in the 1386×768 range. — Side note: I don’t talk about 720p because I don’t believe it’s going to make a dent in Europe at all. It’s too close to PAL resolution and thus won’t be enough of an incentive to get people to buy new TV’s — IMHO, if you’re buying any of these cameras aside from the Canon, don’t do it for the HD factor but because you can deliver a sharper SD sized image. It’s the only thing that makes sense in Europe anyway.

Next up is gain. Adam Wilt measured the 6 cameras at somewhere between 320 and 160 ISO. The Sony Z1 trailed the pack at 160 ISO and the Panasonic HVX-200 leads at 320. Various people commented on how the Panasonic is somewhat noisy and the Sony being the cleanest of them all. Some people even start talking about cinematic noise vs. video noise, but the truth is that you can’t rely on gain numbers and sensitivity numbers at all. To me, the Panasonic HVX-200 and older Panasonic DVX-100 shots I’ve seen look like they’re shot with about 6 to 12 dB of gain. They’re not, but I think Panasonic is willing to boost the output of the CCDs a far bit more to be able to be the low light sensitivity champion. The sad thing about this is that you can not turn this “boost” off, so you’ll always have some kind of noise in your picture. Truth to be said, Canon does offer a -3 dB mode that does exactly that.

Last but not least is Depth of Field (DOF). 1/3 inch cameras offer such a large DOF that it’s very difficult to create “cinematic” images with them. That why a lot of people are turning towards 35 mm adapters. A 35 mm adapter consists of a moving groundglass, a lens for a 35mm stills camera projecting an image on the ground glass and a macro lens to be able to focus your camera on projected image. It’s a bit like filming a movie projection. Trouble is, said adapters cause you to lose a lot of light (about 1.5 to 2 stops, people talk about 60 ISO equivalent for an Canon XL2 with a $10000 P+S Technik Mini35 system) and most of the footage shown is really soft. I’ll be trying one later this year, but I think most of the resolution you win with these affordable HD cameras will be downright lost once you put a 35 mm adapter in front of them.

Another thing that I found remarkable is the fact the JVC-HD100 behaved a lot better than what you would expect from its modest tech specs. It looks like JVC is a bit under the radar for most people considering a camera purchase, but I have to say that I’m really impressed by the JVC-DV5000 we use at school. In fact, if you’re looking for a sub $10000 camera in Europe and you don’t mind the weight and heft of a real broadcast camera, try the JVC-DV5000 or 5100. You’ll have better low light performance, a real broadcast lens and you look professional too.

Just a quick word for anyone else in Belgium trying to install the Belgacom ADSL starter kit on a Mac. The kit includes a Speedtouch 330 USB ADSL modem. Here’s what’s wrong with it:

  1. The drivers that are included will not work on any recent Mac. They’re 4 years old and they’re written for Mac OS X 10.1. On top of this, the documentation is totally outdated. Download new drivers here.
  2. You may need to install the BSD subsystem if you haven’t already. It’s on one of Apple’s install disks. The reason for this is unclear. It looks like some part of the modem’s initialisation script uses grep.

On top of this, the account management system

  1. uses a certificate issued by CertiPost. CertiPost (a division of the Belgian Postal Services) may deliver some worthwile services, but issuing certificates without being a trusted certificate authority isn’t one of them. This means that you will have to put up with a warning about a potentially insecure site every time you enter the management page. It also means that will be a lot easier for someone to build a spoof site to collect your account information.
  2. doesn’t seem to work in either Safari or Internet Explorer 5.2 for Mac. At least, it didn’t on 2006-01-27.

The problems with the modem can be solved by buying or renting a model with Ethernet instead of USB. ADSL modems with an Ethernet connection are by default compatible with Mac OS X. You won’t have to install any software. You will be able to connect the modem to an Airport base station or any other broadband router.

The problems with the account management page are insurmountable.

FYI, Telenet works without problems and is quite a bit faster.