First "Real World" HDV Editing Gig

Some are claiming that HDV is to DV what DV was to Beta SP. In other words, a cheaper, yet (sometimes) better acquisition format. I'm not sure I agree... just yet.

HDV has been around for about two years or so with different flavors from different vendors popping up all over the place. JVC was really the first player with their one-chip consumer HDV camera - then Sony came on board with their consumer three-chip camera - shortly followed by their prosumer camera. Since then pretty much everyone has an HDV camera on the market, except for Panasonic who doesn't buy into the HDV codec scheme of "inter-frame" compression (they're new offering is DVCProHD, which is "real" HD just like the Varicam shoots).

I have shot with the new JVC HDV camera and really liked how the camera felt - it was like a "mini-Betacam" or similar feeling camera. It rested well on your shoulder for excellent ENG or documentary style shooting - unlike the other "handycam" style cameras that make your arm tired, etc...

So, what does this have to do with my first HDV editing gig?

Well, besides giving you a little background on the format, and telling you my limited experience with it - I wanted to mention how I really liked the JVC camera and compare that to their HDV deck, which I now have decided I HATE.

The deck basically doesn't work with Avid (my editing platform of choice). Not sure about Final Cut Pro or other NLEs, but it does not like the Avid.

We tried capturing into Xpress Pro and into an Adrenaline - no luck with either system. We can see the footage and play the footage into the system for a moment or two, then the deck stops. We also have no deck control either via Firewire or RS-422. We even tried capturing the footage into an Adrenaline through a Miranda converting the HDV signal to HD - making the footage go through the HD-SDI connection, and still had no luck.

We definitely think it is a JVC issue and not an Avid one - although I have said all along that HDV shooting is far ahead of the software to edit it on. HDV is just MPEG 2 video. This format was not created as an acquisition format. It's what DVDs use. It's what many broadcasters use to transmit their TV signal. It really is NOT a good format to shoot with. BUT, it is cheap and looks pretty darn good, actually far better than it has any right to. So, it's going to be around a while (although tape is rapidly disappearing, which would help with our capture problems!).

The only way we could get the JVC HDV footage into the Avid was via the CAMERA. And I hate capturing from a camera for several reasons, but mainly because it's bad on the heads. We also couldn't batch capture from the camera (and again, you wouldn't want to really anyway). But the worst thing was if you captured more than a four or so minute long clip the audio would slowly slip out of synch. This sucks! We found this out the hard way and had to recapture two entire hour long tapes - then the audio actually slipped again on some of the new clips. So, instead of capturing that again, I simply synched them by hand. That sucked too!

I don't have any real experience with the Sony or Canon 1080i flavor of HDV and capturing. But, I have used the Sony deck and it "talks" to the Avid nicely. Why didn't we use it? Well, the JVC camera shoots 720p and the Sony deck will play it back, but only through the analog component outputs - NOT the Firewire port.

The producer of this project is probably going to return the JVC deck. What he ended up doing was renting a Panasonic HD deck - transferring the HDV tapes with timecode to it - then editing the show in true HD in the Adrenaline. Bad thing is there were 40 HDV tapes at an hour each to dub! This not only took a long time to do, but it costs a ton for tapestock and deck rental.

I hope to see some software upgrades at NAB this year for all platforms editing HDV. I gotta believe it can be done, but with my experience it's just not quite there yet.

So, just beware before you jump head first into a project or make a purchase of any HDV gear - or really any new gear period. I can't stress enough to test, test, test (thank goodness none of this project was on my dime).

I tell ya, the good ole' days of Betacam don't sound so bad to me right now.


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Who Am I?

I'm a filmmaker who's produced & directed five feature films including the comedy SPILT MILK (available on iTunes), the new horror/thriller PHOBIA (on iTunes) and the action/thiller KILLING DOWN (which you can buy or rent at pretty much all the usual places).

I also created the Streamy and Webby award-winning web series PINK, which to date has been viewed online around 10 MILLION times at places like YouTube, Hulu, Koldcast and And speaking of, I also produced and directed an online thriller for them called EXPOSED. It was released summer 2010. And most recently I created a new online sci-fi series called CONTINUUM, which is part of the online indie TV network - Just The Story and NOW available via VOD through indie platform Distrify.

Oh, and I don't shoot weddings. Thanks for asking though.

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