Archive for July 30th, 2007

Driving at Silicon Valley

JBQ got his Camaro Z28 back from service this week and so we drove around Silicon Valley yesterday. My short video below has a view over San Jose, Cupertino, Mountain View, Sunnyvale – the heart of Silicon Valley. A view from afar of Apple’s Infinite Loop offices is offered too.

You might notice some small black objects flying in the video (visibility depends on YouTube’s encoding – update: YouTube’s re-encoding was REALLY bad, so I uploaded the original 1.5MB PSP-compatible video here). At first, I thought that either my HV20’s sensor is starting to die, or that I… captured semi-cloaked UFOs. Thankfully, JBQ was here to put things in place: these are flies or mosquitoes that fly about 2-3 meters away from the camera so they look like blurred super-fast objects. :D

A review of Battlestar Galactica, Part II

Continuing my review points from the other day, I finished watching the series from beginning to end. I think I “get” Battlestar Galactica more now than I did before. It is indeed a drama set in space, rather than pure action sci-fi. I do like it.

However, I find it ironic that my favorite episode from Season-1 is the “The Hand of God“. In that episode there was the kind of action that I really want to see in a series that calls itself “space sci-fi”, that is, Star Wars-style battles. There was actually a plot regarding the battle operation, there was a cool asteroid and Cylon bases on it. It was a battle that had a goal. In all the other episodes, the Cylons are the only ones attacking, the battles are just lame, too short, and without any true focus as the only objective is “shoot as many as you can” and “jump away as fast as you can”. It’s sensible for Adama to avoid conflict with a more powerful enemy, but the usual “cylons attack, starbuck kicks their asses, then we all jump away” thing is boring.

It seems that the BSG writers tried to bring over audience that don’t specifically like sci-fi, but at the same time they managed to alienate some classic sci-fi viewers. If only we could get more of the kind of action like in that episode, I think I would enjoy the series much-much more. I like well-directed action with a purpose. I don’t care if Starbuck has the hots for Lee. Anders is hotter anyway (plus the actor is a local, grew up a few miles away from my home).

Advice on camcorder purchase

As you might have noticed, my main hobby is videographing lately. Having researched the market, I think I can offer some useful advice regarding where the camcorder market is going and hopefully save you a few bucks.

The idea is this: if you already have an old camcorder, hold on to it. If you just want “a” camcorder, get the lowest-end DV Canon one, which is usually selling at around $230. If you want to buy an HD camcorder wait 2-3 more years. The reason I am suggesting this is because the HD camcorder landscape is going to rapidly change in the next few years and so it’s wise to wait for this change to happen and then buy. We are currently living in a transitional stage.

The “tape”-based DV/HDV camcorders are going the way of the dodo. That much is a fact, no matter what the fanboys will tell you. The new standard is AVCHD and all major companies are going for it (including Canon which is keeping mum so far about it). It is a more convenient format for the user, as only SD or CF cards are needed instead of big, boring, last-century tapes. Additionally, because AVCHD uses USB 2.0, it will be the final strike against Firewire (main reason why Macs always come with firewire is video support).

AVCHD does not yet produce the same quality video as MPEG-2 does for HDV camcorders, but eventually h.264 encoders will be perfected. However, it’s more difficult for NLEs to have support for h.264 editing rather than MPEG-2 with large GOPs. So far, only few NLEs have mastered AVCHD, while most either crash sooner or later with it, or they only support h.264 flavors from specific brands. Maturity will come there too, just not yet though as h.264 is a bitch to decode properly, let alone edit it. You will also need a very beefy PC and 4 GB RAM to work with full progressive HD — specifications that are top of the line today but will be common ground in a few years. Finally, the future AVCHD camcorders will record in full HD 1920×1080 progressive format, while the current HDV standard is limited to 1440×1080-anamorphic and interlaced. In fact, they already started doing so, check this Panasonic model that was announced today.

So, to get an HD camcorder, make sure it’s in the format that will rule in the future and also make sure that you will get it in a time that the market is ready for it. Currently, the market does not even support fully HDV, let alone AVCHD. But the right time will come, just be patient and hold off any purchases regarding HD. Of course, this kind of advice is for people who buy 1 camcorder every 7-10 years. If you are a prosumer who changes gear every 2-3 years, this advice won’t matter much.

A detailed comparison between AVCHD and HDV can be found here.