Archive for January 7th, 2008

The trouble with a new HDTV

As you might know JBQ and I are in the market for a new 1080p 52″+ TV loaded with at least 4 HDMI 1.3a ports, to replace our old component-only Sharp 1080i/540p 55″ HDTV (2001 model). However, we can’t find exactly what we want. JBQ wants a deep-black “fast” Plasma, and I want 120Hz and, especially, 24p support. I can find both the features I want only from Sony’s new LCD line up (nobody else seems to support 24p specifically), and JBQ can only find what he needs (mostly) from Pioneer. Why the hell hasn’t Pioneer (or *any* other Plasma manufacturer for that matter) come out with 72Hz support for proper 24p?

I guess we will have to wait 2-3 years before we both agree on the TV we want to buy.

Update: It seems we found the almost-perfect model: the 50″ Pioneer Kuro PDP-5010FD. It supports 72Hz for proper 24p, although it’s not as big as we wanted it, it doesn’t have enough saturation/color settings as in their “Elite” line, and it doesn’t have Sharp’s “smart stretch” algorithm (useful for 4:3 optimization on a widescreen). However, it fits perfectly in our living room setup, and I think that this is the model we will go with eventually. Any TV article you read it says that Pioneer has the best plasmas today (if not best TVs in general). B&H sells it for $3500.

Oh, I almost forgot: it runs Linux.

Watch ALL “Lost” episodes in HD, legally

Install their flash plugin addon at ABC.com and watch all 3 seasons of “Lost” in HD. Quality is great and with the new version of Flash that has some optimizations it plays without skipping frames at full 720p on my P4 3 Ghz. Now there’s no excuse to not watch “Lost”, as long as you live in USA (episodes only stream for US IP addresses).

Canon: you screwed up

And so Canon announced officially their new line today. I don’t have much gripe on their AVCHD line because while not as good as the HV20 in several levels, I didn’t expect much either. But their new “Vixia HV30”, is a FUCKING JOKE. It is basically the same as the HV20, but in a black coat. Ok, ok, there are a few more differences, but they are not huge:

The HV30 allows for 30p recording.
The HV30 has a VIVID LCD screen.
The HV30 has a new kind of zoom button.
The HV30 has version 28 connection kit (HV20 has version 24).
The HV30 allows for longer record times with the new battery.

But it it still uses 1440×1080. And they don’t seem to offer true 24p either, it’s still PF24 on tape, and its 30p feature is wrapped inside a 60i stream too, it’s not real 30p. So much for great new features.

So basically, the “HV30” is nothing but “HV20.1”. It’s a joke. Canon cashed in like crazy with the HV20, one of the most successful camcorders ever, and instead of offering a camcorder that truly improves on the HV20, they laugh at us with these no-real-improvement product. It’s like they were afraid to add any of new real feature to not spoil their success. Or, they just got greedy and instead of releasing a new firmware version they created a new model.

As for their new AVCHD line of flash-based camcorders, I must say that I won’t touch them. They are dumbed down compared to the HV20/HV30 in many ways, including a smaller lens/filter thread, and their 1/3.2″ CMOS instead of 1/2.7 of the HV-series means almost no background blur!!! And we still don’t know for sure if these camcorders support real 24p without pulldown or not either. The only advantage they seem to have is that one of their modes allows full 1920×1080 recording (not sure until we see a review).

Honestly, in terms of “progress” over their previous line up, Panasonic’s new high-end consumer 24p/progressive camcorder seems much more “progressed” compared to their previous models, than any of these Canon cameras. Canon really disappointed me today. It’s like they don’t want the HV20 owners to upgrade. How idiotic is that?

I think I will wait for the RED MINI pocket camera and be done with that shit.

From Vegas Platinum to 24p DVDs

Many HD cameras shoot 24p these days, and while some consumer-grade video editors can deal with 24p, there aren’t many cheap DVD authoring applications that support 24p. For example, ‘Sony Vegas Platinum 8’ unofficially supports 24p timelines, but its accompanied ‘DVD Architect Studio’ application doesn’t. If you are shooting in 24p, it’s better to edit and burn a real 24p DVD and let the TV add pulldown during playback, rather than adding pulldown during the DVD authoring process. Besides, there are some new playback devices in the market these days that can output true 24p to 24p Sony TVs, without adding pulldown, so these cases while rare, can benefit from pure 24p DVDs. Here’s how to go around DVD authoring limitations and produce a 24p NTSC DVD:

1. Download and install the latest “nightly by clsid” ffdshow build.

2. Capture your footage the way you usually do. If your camera does not capture as true progressive in the 23.976 frame rate, but instead it uses something like Canon’s PF24 or some of Sony variants, you must remove pulldown (methods for the HV20 here, or for Canon’s AVCHD line here).

3. Then, bring your footage into your video editor, just make sure your editor does support true 24p editing (e.g. VMS Platinum). In the “File”/”Project Properties” select 1440×1080 size, frame rate of 23.976 (type it if there’s no such option), progressive field order, aspect ratio of 1.3333, rendering quality “best” and “none” for de-interlacing method. Then, edit as usual.

4. When your editing is done, you export in an intermediate format. Click “File”, “Render As”, select the “avi” type and its “HDV 720-25p intermediate” template. Then, click “custom”. In the “video” tab of the dialog that pops up select “23.976 (IVTC Film)” for frame rate, and then from the video format menu select the “ffdshow video codec”. Click “configure”. From the newly created dialog select the “encoder” tab, and from the encoder menu select “Lossless JPEG” and “YV12” for its Colorspace. Click “Ok” to close that dialog. Click “Ok” to close the other dialog too. Then, hit “Save” to start encoding the .avi file.

5. Install the latest “DVD Flick” version (as I write this, the latest beta version can be found here) and then load the application (regularly check for new versions of this app). Click “Project Settings” and go to its “Video” tab. There, select “NTSC-film” as target format. From the “Burning” tab you can instruct the application to burn a disc at the end of your authoring, or just create the DVD/.iso files without burning. Then, load your LJpeg .avi file(s) you exported from your video editor into DVD Flick. Read the DVD Flick manual to learn how to author DVDs with this application. It is a simple application to use, but it doesn’t have enough templates and beautifications. Save often too, as the application is not super-stable either, but it’s the best we got to do this job for free. After you are done authoring, you can click the “Create DVD” icon to burn or just create an .iso file. Enjoy!

Some notes on this method:

* I don’t use 1440×1080 to export via the video editor on step #4 because the kinds of .avi files that VMS produces are not recognized as widescreen by other applications. This results in DVD Flick having vertical letterbox bars, and that’s not what we want. Besides, downscaling first to 720p and then to 480p is not very lossy to make you worry about it.

* If your 24p camera is a DV one instead of HD, export in 874×480 (progressive, 23.976 frame rate, aspect ratio 1.000), instead of the suggested 720p resolution on step #4 (use the same codec as suggested though). If your camera is the DVX-100 export in 848×480.

* I am using LJpeg instead of the Huffyuv codec in this tutorial because the mode of Huffyuv that produces smaller files uses a colorspace that DVD Flick does not support. As for the Lagarith lossless codec, or Cineform, they are not supported by DVD Flick either, so your best bet is LJpeg (the FFv1 ffdshow codec could be a workable idea, but it’s slower to encode that LJpeg).