The present and future of post production business and technology

HDV – Is it something or is it nothing?

I’ve just added a comprehensive briefing paper to the Pro Apps Hub on HDV called, as the title of this post suggests, “Is it something or is it nothing?” Bottom line, it’s something all right and it’s going to be the final factor that drives production inexorably to HD.

Here’s the introductory paragraph:

“It’s hard not to be caught up in the HDV hype but is this 19/25 Mbit High Definition format going to take the world by storm, or does the heavy compression make it unworkable? This briefing paper takes a look at:

  • the format and how they fit an HD signal on a DV tape,
  • how it looks in practice,
  • how HDV can be edited,
  • distribution HDV, and
  • how it is likely to fit into, and change, the production and post-production industries. Particular attention is paid to working with HDV with Apple’s editing applications.”

You can access the briefing paper by downloading the free Pro Apps Hub software and following the link to download. The Pro Apps Hub is the most up to date, no time-wasting news for Apple’s Pro Apps users, daily productivity tips, briefing papers, the only index to the best of what’s free on the Internet – tutorials, articles, resources, forums so you don’t waste time with what isn’t great, and an online catalog. (Did I mention that I’m incredibly proud of what we’ve created with the Pro Apps Hub?)

Check out the HDV article and follow the link at the end of the article back here to comment. This entry will load directly in the Hub.







18 responses to “HDV – Is it something or is it nothing?”

  1. First, congrats on the blog, Phil. Second, leave at least as much space for retorts as you leave for the starter post! 😉

    Secondly, yes, HDV is now an entry-level high def format and no navel-gazing is going to put this genie back in the bottle. It’s alreday been embraced by folks like the veteran at WCVB, Art Donahue, who does documentary television every week. Art’s solution for the limitations of MPEG-2 is… get it the hell out of MPEG-2!! When he returns form the field, he pipes the YUV component out of the camera right to a Panasonic DVCPro 1200A deck. It could just as easily go to an HDCAM deck at true 1080 X 1920. In Art’s case, it stays 720p throughout post, (or is downconverted) for broadcast) and it’s really a flavor of high def. It’s happening.

  2. Not sure that either approach will give you any more resolution than the 1440 x 1080i of the Sony HDV – DVPRO HD also subsamples 1080i at 1440 (I think) and definitely HDCAM is only ever 1440 pixels wide in the 1080 format. There’s a lot of smoke and mirrors in HD – high resolution smoke and very detailed mirrors! 🙂

    But I agree, getting out of MPEG-2 at the earliest step in the process is the way to go.

    And don’t worry, there’s virtually unlimited space for the retorts. And I do have the power to edit the blog or add to it if needs be, or someone convinces me with lucid argument.

  3. John Farrell

    What about a link to the paper from Windows browser….?

  4. It’s not possible to link to the article any other way than through the Pro Apps Hub software and unfortunately that’s only available for OS X 10.3 right now. There will be a future version of the software for windows but I can’t give you a timeline on when.


  5. Great blog, and great topic, Philip! In our rather quick HDV/DVX/XL2 shootout at CDIA@BU, I found all of the qualities described here and at other sites, very impressive features, a beautiful image quality and even a nicer-the-usual tonality, warmer than Sony’s usual cool look. However, I’m suprised people aren’t concerned about the drop-out issue, though! The reviews on also saw this, where a single droup-out become part of the mpeg2 GOP, so you get something like eight frames of drop-out instead of a single field or frame! That’s pretty unacceptable by any standards, and while Sony recommends using the highest-quality Sony tapes, this seems like a pretty high risk to run for a format thats poised to be used in professional applications, doesn’t it? WBZ Channel 5 in Boston (Needham) has started using HDV for large oparts of their Chronicle program, but their also using that not-particularly-inexpensive drop-out compensator labelled Snell & Wilcox!
    Has anyone else experienced this drop-out problem?

  6. The long drop-out problem got its own subsection in the HDV article: with HDV it’s 15 frames before it gets back together – a plot to sell high priced tape imho! 😉 Not coincidentally Sony have released a higher quality tape specifically for HDV.


  7. S.Shaw

    By far, the best “whole Picture” article / review / what ever you want to call it for HDV. I recently bought the HDR-FX1 and was a little worried, but after reading this article I psyched on this format and can’t wait to see what people come up with – content and technique – for working with it. Great job Philip, thank you!!

  8. Chris Poisson

    Great blog, Philip. This is sounding so encouraging I’m actually thinking about a Z1!

  9. Great article! I have used DVCPRO HD to edit HD and save on storrage…but it’s 1280×1080 whereas HDV is 1440×1080. You’ve explained the difference well between 1440 vs 1920 (square vs rectangular pixels) but what happens to the size of the frame at 1280?



  10. Jeff Elliott


    What a fantastic overview of the HDV freight train! As a fellow who makes some moonlighting money shooting sports video (basic miniDV), I have been itching to get more details on what HDV is, and isn’t. I’ve read all the reviews of the new Sony HDV camcorder and techno-lust was slowly but surely distorting my view of reality, not to mention tugging at my more-or-less empty wallet. I now have a much clearer understanding of the format and some of the editing choices/tradeoffs (I am FCP HD all the way).

    I was interested in your comment about the HDV format not being particularly good for ‘high action sports’. I shoot soccer at the high school and college level, mostly elevated and up in the stands. Given that I have not had the opportunity to see any HDV footage of any kind (and for the 51st straight year, I am NOT going to NAB), I am curious as to your opinion as to whether HDV would hold up for such shooting, vis-a-vis basic, consumer DV.

    Once again, thanks for the wonderful article. I look forward to continued discussion of this topic, and I will certainly be referring my FCP friends and family over here at every opportunity!


  11. Jeff, thanks for the kind comments. I was looking at some HDV footage on Wednesday night and some of it was following runners at a marathon which I think would be a bit like your soccer games. There was no really obvious artifacting on those shots despite panning with the runner and moving along the street. OTOH, the shot that showed really serious artifacting was some orchids moving in the breeze but with a soft focus moving trees/bushes background. That was really hard for the MPEG-2 encoding to deal with so every time the orchid moved, it went soft (that’s the most common way HDV artifacts).

    The blessing is that the human eye also “goes soft” when watching fast moving objects. 😉 However, I’d expect the 720 60P version of HDV to be significantly better for sports than 1080 60 interlace (ie 60 progressive frames v 30 frames/60 fields.)

    I managed to avoid NAB for 42 consecutive years but broke down in 98.


  12. Hi all! I own a Sony Z1 and love it. I wrote a review about HDV in Digital Journal magazine, due out soon. My thoughts are this: Final Cut Express HD does a fantastic job capturing AND going back to tape. However, when capturing HDV, the speed of your computer comes in to play a lot. It has to decode the MPEG2 and make it GOPs, so the faster the processor the less behind your computer will be than the camera. The only computers I’ve seen capture HDV in real time are PowerMac G5s either dual 2.0 or dual 2.5. I can’t wait for the rumored FCP 5 at NAB so I have all the perks of using it vs. FCE HD.

    As for shooting, great lens, great LCD, and it artifacts when I used it while driving in a car…

    Thats all for now. See ya, and great blog!

  13. Great article Phil, and yes, HDV probably is something.

    I recently purchased the HVR-Z1P (P for asiaPacific) with the justification that as a native 16:9 SD camera, it already fits in my requirements, but HDV in future will just be an added bonus. The PAL plu NTSC capability was a real bonus for us.

    Unfortunately for various reasons I just haven’t had the chance to test HDV acquisition for SD downconvert output vis a vis straight SD recording – and now it’s rented out and I’m setting off on vacation so it’ll have to wait till April before I can test this out myself.

    In your article you do mention the benefit of downsampling with these cameras as providing pleasing results compared to the current crop of prosumer SD cameras… but if SD is the endgame, is there any benefit to record HDV and downsample HDV recording to SD as opposed to just recording SD (DVCam) in the first place?

    The MPeg2 compression with negative artifacting on motion and risk of drop out appears a definite downside, but “future proofing” for HD seems tempting. I’d be planning to use the PDVM pro cassettes…

    Have you had any thoughts or experience on this?

    Justin Keen

  14. The oversampling for SD (by shooting HD) would have the same compression restrictions as in HD although the artifacting would be greatly reduced by being scaled down: artifacts are scaled down as well. The worst artifacting I’ve seen is a slight softening of the image, so that would sharpen up again.

    Oversampling will always give a better result than minimal sampling, other things being equal.


  15. I realize this is an old article. Is there a reason to use a proprietary program? I think I “get” what you are trying to do with Pro Apps Hub but I also don’t think it’s worth building a special browser to do it when a well designed secure server plus a non-proprietary secure browser can do the trick and allow the collaboration that I think you are shooting for.

    I tried to use PAH but what I get are blank white screens until I select items. I had to just select and copy the HDV article to TextEdit to read it.

  16. Unfortunately the Pro Apps Hub is not compatible with OS X 10.4.

    As for why it’s software – we simply cannot do what the Pro Apps Hub is doing in a browser. I wish we could, it would be simpler. A browser cannot manipulate files, build a database or deliver content through a floating window.



  17. OK. It’s just hard to see what it does when it doesn’t support my computer.

    Is Pro Apps Hub dead then, or do most people that use Apple’s Pro software staying behind anyway for other reasons? The reason I ask is that OS X 10.4 has been out for six months.

  18. Definitely not dead. Supporting it takes 2-3 hours a day of my time, so I sure hope it’s not dead (news, new tip every week day, constant adding to the articles and tutorials database). Most Pro Apps users would be thinking of going to 10.4 now (if they’re smart) as 10.4 is almost ready for professional use. 10.4.0, 10.4.1 and to a lesser degree 10.4.2 had serious problems for Pro Apps users.

    We’re dependent on a 3rd party plug-in for the Pro Apps Hub and the German developer has not yet released a 10.4 version. Not having a 10.4-compatible version is a serious problem for us, but until we remake as native OS X software, we have little choice. We are working feverishly to create an all-native OS X version but that’s a significant undertaking.

    Thanks for your interest.