More pixels, same data rate
The HDR-HC1E records video in the relatively new HDV standard. This format is designed to make the transition to HD as painless as possible for camcorder users. The video is compressed using MPEG-2 at a data rate of 25Mbits/sec – exactly the same as the DV recorded by most current digital camcorders. This means that identical tapes can be used. HDV is also designed to be captured to PC via FireWire. All you need is software support and you can use the same cabling and PC connection for video acquisition.
HDV comes in two basic versions – 1080i and 720p. The former is an interlaced format like current TV, and the latter is progressively scanned. Although the frame rates differ depending on whether you’re in Europe or the US and Japan (25fps versus 30fps), the resolution is the same across the board. For 1080i, as used by the Sony HDR-HC1E and FX1E, frames are captured at 1,440 x 1,080. But the pixels are non-square, so the 16:9 picture aspect ratio is maintained. For 720p, favoured by JVC’s HDV products, frames are 1,280 x 720, so the pixels can be square.
Software capable of editing HDV has been arriving thick and fast, too. At the professional end, Premiere Pro 1.5.1, Canopus EDIUS 3 and Pinnacle Liquid Edition 6.1 all support it. But the capability is filtering down, with Media Studio Pro 7 and 8 able to capture and edit the footage, plus the forthcoming Pinnacle Studio 10. So even if broadcasters are dragging their feet, HDV camcorder buyers can edit their footage right now. They can then either output it to formats like WMVHD for enjoyment on a computer, or back to tape for playback via an HDTV. The HDR-HC1, for example, offers component video connectivity as well as regular composite and S-video.