I'd been itching to try a new High Definition
camcorder... and thanks to a friend, Norman F Carver Jr.
is among many things an accomplished photographer, architect, writer, and
digital artist, I got a chance this week to test his Sony
The camcorder is a hybrid in that you can shoot either
HDV 1080i or DV format, toggling between them as you want. Switching from
one to the other is as easy as touching the LCD screen
It was a good time to do it. I wasn't sure how I'd get the
HDV files from the camcorder to the computer in my XP system, but I
had just installed the latest beta version (SP2) of the Vista operating
system... which features include using high definition files with
nothing more than the new Photo Gallery, Movie Maker and DVD Maker software
apps bundled with the operating system.
first subject was a pewter chalice in the corner of my office, where
I put some loose change. With the camcorder on a tripod and zoomed into it,
I wanted to see how well it would capture details of the chalice
and the money in it.
After that, I aimed out a window and videoed some wet rustling leaves
in a tree, another zoomed in close-up subject.
I shot the two scenes first in HDV and then in DV, toggling
between the two formats and not leaving any spaces on the tape.
The camcorder does a great job, and it was a fun learning experience...
I'll use this newsletter to share it with you as best I can.
To illustrate the difference between watching DV versus HDV, let's assume
you had a screen with enough resolution to see the full video... which I
don't... so I'll show you a cropped segment.
Here's part of a frame from the clip shot in regular DV format.
It's enlarged to align with the actual size of the HDV 1080i snapshot
that follows. The enlargement is to show the differences you can
expect to see when viewing the same content shot in either format on a
large screen monitor or TV with enough resolution to show the 1080i video in all
Part of a DV snapshot enlarged to 1080
.... and here's the same (but a larger cropped
area) to show what you get with the HDV format option.
Part of a HDV snapshot at actual 1080
This newsletter won't get into the differences in
quality, features of the camcorder, or editing of high definition content.
There's lots of online info that can better show you those.
I'll explore the steps used to get the video clips from the
camcorder tape to the computer, and beyond that into Movie Maker... in
XP or Vista.
... before getting into it
further, a couple notes...
There's an interesting new blog related to
the HD subject, with this first post of 9/13/06 kicking it
Welcome to “The HD DVD Insiders”,
Microsoft’s new HD DVD blog. This is our forum for our passionate employees to
talk about the format, our VC-1 codec, and what we’re doing to provide
consumers with the world’s best HD content.
Vista Corner... downloaded and installed the
RC2 release... my main issues with Vista right now are:
burning capability stopped with recent releases, after it had been
working fine earlier. It's an HP system with an HP burner in it,
so I contacted HP via their online chat support service. The tech
rep was very helpful, but the bottom line was they don't support issues
with systems being used for beta testing new operating systems...
captures HD 1080i files but doesn't play them. I can't see the
The 180 GB external hard drive that was stopped
working last week finished the job this week, and is now
unusable... hope I don't miss what was on it. I pulled it from the case, tried using it as a second
drive inside a computer, and a day of error checking by Windows XP
found nothing but bad sectors.
.... back to the main
The Sony HDR-HC1 Camcorder
The cover of the manual sums it up
well... with both DV and HDV logos. As we've seen coming into this
issue, you can toggle between standard DV and HDV 1080i when shooting, and
playback will toggle automatically.
It feels familiar and comfortable in
uses the same power adapter and
batteries as other Sony camcorders
uses the same cassette tapes
as Mini-DV camcorders... as with Hi8 and digital8 models you can move the
same tape between camcorders for recording... but unlike those, you don't even
have to move the tape, just shoot DV or HDV in the same camcorder
plays my library of mini-DV
comes with a USB connection cable
but no firewire/iLink cable... Norm didn't get a firewire cable
uses the same 4 pin firewire
cables used with mini-DV camcorders... so my cables worked fine
snapshots from the camcorder record
to a memory stick... the newer smaller pro version... the manual says one is
included, but it wasn't in the camcorder or the case... maybe it's still in
the box. I use the regular memory stick so I couldn't take any test snapshots.
On the unusual side, it doesn't come
with any software to capture the video... no disc at all... no trial version
The manual says to use a firewire
(iLink) cable to copy movies to a computer, and says to use editing software
capable of copying HDV signals for HDV clips, and editing software capable of
copying DV signals for DV clips... it refers you to the operating
instructions of the software you choose.... with no suggestions.
It also says that some editing
software on the computer may not work correctly, and that the computer may hang
up or not recognize the signal if you don't do things right or the software
The manual has a few pages about
using "Click to DVD" software on a Sony VAIO series computer. All the computers
at the library for my training sessions are those. With one, you should be able
to go directly from the camcorder to a DVD... any HDV footage is
automatically downsized to regular DV during the process. That's not what I want
to do... my goal is to get the full HDV clips into Movie Maker.
That leaves us wide open and on our
own for what software to use on XP or Vista... and how to do it. The
playback works fine on the camcorder's LCD screen, so obviously any issues
or difficulties I encounter trying to get it to the computer will be fully my
responsibility to figure out. The fun begins!!!! This is the meat of this
To help figure out how to approach
the importing/capturing, here's some selected info from the manual, mostly
the specification section...
HDV - MPEG-1
Layer-2, 16 bits, 48 kHz stereo
DV - PCM, 12 bits,
32 kHz stereo... or 16 bits, 48 kHz stereo
Video recording - NTSC
Tape speed - about 18.81 mm/sec... the
same speed for either HDV or DV
Recording time - 60 minutes for
HDV or DV
gross - about
effective 4:3 -
effective 16:9 -
effective still 4:3
effective still 16:9
Optical zoom - 10x
The camcorder can playback
either DV or HDV... mixed on the same tape.
It can also play back pictures recorded
in HDV 720/30p format, but not transfer them by firewire (not tested as the
camcorder doesn't have an option to record HDV 720p)... there's not much to test
if it can't transfer it by firewire.
Importing Clips -
Let's start with Vista,
using the latest beta release (RC2) which supports the importing
of HDV from a camcorder.
Vista's Photo Gallery is the default app
for the import process. You can start with Movie Maker also, but it'll use
the same process.
Here's what the first window looks like
when importing the clips recorded as DV. Note the option to
import to multiple WMV files, a new feature in Vista. For my tests,
I'm capturing to DV-AVI, and the multiple file option
And the same window for the HDV footage. The only
option is importing to a single file.
Note the size estimate for the HDV
files, a bit less than comparable DV-AVI files for DV.
The size differences are due to
compression. It's like having BMP versus compressed JPG pictures.
The next window when
importing DV gives
you three choices.
The 2nd choice of going directly to a DVD is new with Vista.
Sounds like the Sony manual referring to "Click to DVD".
I opted for the 3rd one just to get the DV-AVI files from
my two scenes.
When importing the HDV scenes in Vista, the first
two choices are the same... but the option I wanted was the third one, which
isn't there... no option to import selected parts.
The lead in statement implies it's
an option, but it isn't.
My first shots on the
camcorder were on an already used tape that had only about 10 minutes
of tape left. It was from my mini-DV camcorder.
When I saw the option not being
there, rather than sit through 50 minutes of Vista looking through the tape to
get to my new shots, I shot the scenes again, this time using the first part
of a new tape.
Stopping the Import
When the import process was past the footage I wanted, it kept going at
real time speed. Vista was going to go through the whole tape looking for more
HDV clips.... that would take another 50+ minutes.
I stopped it... there were two choices... to Cancel or to
Both choices gave a caution or warning which gave me something to
think about. The message when cancelling was more ominous than when
stopping, so I stopped it. I had another clue that the cancelling wouldn't
be a good choice, as I was watching the creation of the video file... which was
tagged as being a temporary one. Cancelling a process usually results in
temporary files being deleted.
It's not an elegant way to present the option to capture only
some of the footage, but it worked for this newsletter test. It wouldn't
be good for real work when its importing just the tail end of a
tape, or something from the middle.
Video File Creation
As the HDV import
happens, you can see the file
being created... the dvr-ms_tmp
extension led me to believe two
Vista was serious about deleting it. If I cancelled the import
instead of stopping. It would have wiped out the temporary file.
The file format when using Photo Gallery in Vista is dvr-ms, a
Microsoft MPEG-2 derivative... the same extension for recorded TV shows
when using Media Center software on XP.
While waiting, I copied the 300 MB temp file to my XP computer,
renamed it to a dvr-ms extension, and tried playing it. WMP gave an error
message. I knew the file wasn't complete enough to play... it hadn't been
I waited a bit more as the blank part of the tape was being
searched. The file didn't get any bigger. After I stopped the process, the
file had the dvr-ms extension and other temporary files were deleted.
The import process for the DV
footage on the same
tape was kind of normal, so I won't go through it.
I had to jog the camcorder setting from Auto to DV to kick start
it. Until then Vista treated the device as an HDV camcorder.
DV importing ends with typical DV-AVI files.
Note again that Movie Maker in Vista doesn't need to
be involved in the importing. You can start with it, but the default when
plugging a camcorder in is to do it in Photo Gallery.
See the different shapes of the HDV and DV clip
thumbnails in Photo Gallery. HDV is always widescreen while DV can be shot
as standard or widescreen.
Another note about Vista... checking the properties of the
imported HDV clip shows it as 720x480. Copying the clip from Vista
to XP and checking its properties shows it as 1440x1080!!!! And
it plays fine on the XP system.
Let's go over to my laptop and do the same
importing there, but using Windows XP.
Capturing Clips - XP