The added cost of HDV/AVCHD

I received quite some email the last few days, following my popular videography article at OSNews. Many of the readers who emailed me want to buy an HD camcorder — and many of them are actually interested in 24p support. I don’t want to sound as an elitist, or even downright weird, but I must say: Stop. Buying an HD camera is not just a matter of buying just the camera because in order to fully appreciate it, it requires a lot of related hardware.

The average person still runs a 2-3 year old PC or laptop with 512 MBs of RAM. Why? Because simply put, it still works fine for basic computer tasks. Now, in order to edit HDV, and especially the more hungry AVCHD, you need a top of the line less-than-2-year-old CPU, 2+ GBs of RAM and large hard drives. Let’s just say that you can find such a PC for $1000.

Then, you need the HD camera itself, which costs anything between $850 and $1200. Then, you need software that supports HD. Premiere and Vegas are the best options for those serious about video editing, so that’s another $100. So overall, let’s just say that you need another $1000 for both.

Then, you need an HDTV. While in USA 36% of the population already has an HDTV, in Europe it is more like 5-10%. For a basic 32″ 1080i LCD HDTV you need another $500.

And then, you need to be able to watch your videos in HD without having to deal with tapes. And the best way to do that is not to buy Blu-Ray/HD-DVD burners+players+software which is just too expensive, but to use the PS3 or the XboX360 as h.264/m2t/WMV playback devices (they can store the video files on their hard drives, or by burning the HD files on plain DVD media). And that would be another $500 (sorry, the cheaper AppleTV v1.0 does not support full HD).

So basically, what I am saying here is that for the average Joe, moving from his DV camera to an HD one and truly appreciate it, he will need anywhere from $2000 to $3000. The product prices will come down, but not that much. He will still need to pay a lot of money to get the full Monty. Eventually, he will have to cave in and buy these upgrades, but my point is, he might want to start with an HDTV rather than an HD camera.

So my advice to you is: if you have that kind of money to spend just so you can properly enjoy HD, go ahead and do so. If not, keep that plain DV camera. At least for now.


Ivan wrote on November 7th, 2007 at 5:35 AM PST:

What you write really makes sense. I have a 3 year old laptop with an nvidia 5200 graphics card, and I am unable to play the hd files that I download from vimeo. WMP and VLC don’t work at all, and with the latest QT, I get sound and very choppy video.

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Eugenia wrote on November 7th, 2007 at 12:49 PM PST:

I’d suggest you move to a fast video station first, then buy an HDTV and then buy an HD camera. You could do that in the course of 3 years time rather than immediately.

Brian Boyko wrote on November 7th, 2007 at 5:39 PM PST:

Keep in mind that Premiere Elements will NOT support 24p, only the full version of Premiere Pro CS3. Vegas is cheaper but there are stability problems.

My solution was to buy a Mac and Final Cut Pro – which set me back around $4000, total, not including the camera – mostly because when you’re editing HD, it takes forever in Premiere and Vegas. I don’t know why the Mac is so much faster, but in my tests, it clearly is.

I don’t have an HDTV, mostly because I don’t -watch- TV. But my computer monitor on the MacBook Pro is 1920×1200, meaning full res 1080i. I figure that’s good enough for now.

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Eugenia wrote on November 7th, 2007 at 5:45 PM PST:

Brian, Premiere LE does support 24p. Just like Vegas Movie Studio, the option is not obvious (because they try to segment their market), but when you load a 24p file in them, the NLEs properly recognizes it and work with it with the right TimeCode values.

As for Vegas being unstable, I had more problems with Premiere personally.

>But my computer monitor on the MacBook Pro is 1920×1200, meaning full res 1080i.

The only problem is that such a screen is more expensive than an 32″ HDTV 1080i TV that most people would be fond of to have on their living room.

Brian Boyko wrote on November 7th, 2007 at 8:27 PM PST:

Well, I’ve got a 72″ projector at 1024×768. I don’t watch much TV, so there’s not much point in me getting an HDTV except for the stuff that -I- put together. Besides, you can’t take the HDTV on international shoots.

Brian Boyko wrote on November 7th, 2007 at 8:28 PM PST:

Also, Premiere LE is not Premiere Elements.

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