HDV vs AVCHD

There is no doubt in my mind that AVCHD is a much more convenient format over HDV because of the main medium used is hard drives instead of tapes (I won’t go into DVD vs Blu-Ray burning here). Here’s why hard drives (and solid state flash drives in the future) have better usability than tapes:

* You can find faster a particular scene.
* You can seek faster and more precisely within that particular scene.
* You can delete that scene and free up space immediately.
* You can transfer video files to your PC much faster than when capturing from tapes.
* iPod-sized hard drives these days go up to 160 GBs which is enough for 14 hours of AVCHD.
* The AVCHD standard does not have the HDV tape-speed limitation and so it can extend its standard to true 1080p recording and true 24p — without using hacks. And even 2k resolutions when the time comes.
* iPod-sized drives take less space than the tape-reading mechanism so camcorders can become smaller (same thing for the flash-based AVCHD cameras).
* Snapshot JPEG photos won’t have to be stored to a separate flash card, but on the hard drive as well (making the camera even smaller).
* AVCHD supports Dolby 5.1 surround sound.

HDV still has a few cards to play:

* HDV has better picture quality than most AVCHD cameras to date. This is something that AVCHD will overcome in the future, after they perfect and optimize their h.264 encoders in-camera and they go for higher bitrate than 15 mbps.
* HDV is more compatible, and faster to playback & edit than AVCHD’s h.264 format with current NLEs. This will eventually change too as PCs become faster.
* If the tape is full, you just get another one. If the HDD is full, you need a laptop with you to offload some of your footage.
* If the AVCHD camera’s hard drive dies and you are out of your warranty, you are screwed. Unless you are willing to fix it yourself, or buy a future semi-pro AVCHD camera which will feature inter-changeable drives that is. With HDV, if a tape dies, well, you buy a new one for $5. Although the tape drive can die too, of course.

So eventually, the “war” between the two formats will be reduced to just “reliability vs convenience”. As a consumer/prosumer, I prefer convenience. Pros will prefer reliability, although this won’t be an issue if their AVCHD semi-pro camera supports interchangeable drives. All in all, the future looks bleak for HDV.

3 Comments »

Richard wrote on October 1st, 2007 at 10:07 AM PST:

How to archieve the Videos though? I guess Tapes will last a long time, and you wont even need any processing. Sure you can burn your content on DVD(+/-)(RW/R/RAM), but there are a lot of brands that are particularly bad when it comes to long term durability.


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Eugenia wrote on October 1st, 2007 at 1:57 PM PST:

RAID hard drives, 500 GB each, duplicated data. Don’t bother with optical media.


Kevin wrote on October 2nd, 2007 at 10:18 PM PST:

Yeah, archive storage is one of the two main reason the exisitng harddrive formats (Panasonic’s P2 and Sony’s XDCam) are catching on pretty slowly. If you need to archive things for very long periods of time (years, if not decades) like news channels and productions houses do, then tape is still the way to go. Or, if you don’t care about saving the camera master and you just want the final project archived, then you could always shoot on a hdd based camera and archive to tape. Optical isn’t a great option for archiving either because the storage capacity is so small and no one really knows how long dvdr/rw/bluray/hddvd/whateverelseisnext/ discs will actually last.

But as far as the actually work flow goes, hdd cameras are great. Whenever I film live sports games we always have a guy run around with a xdcam or p2 camera shooting b-roll shots for the opening and closings, then he runs back to the truck they plug the drive in and edit the opening/closing reels right there.

Of course, you can still do that same process using linear tape editing… but that’s not nearly as fun 🙂


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