Just As I Thought

JVC GR-HD1

If you’re not an early adopter type, a digital television buff, or an independent filmmaker, you won’t really give a damn about this entry. Just skip it.

I took a gander this morning at the JVC GR-HD1 camcorder, the first high-definition consumer camera. I just don’t know. I want one; because a) it says “high definition” on it, and b) it’s a new, pricey gadget. Perhaps laying out the pros and cons here will help.
I didn’t get to see it’s HD picture because JVC has thoughtfully integrated proprietary cabling and connections; and they didn’t send the cable with the demo unit to the store. So, I had to view a regular old 480i picture, down-converted within the camera.
The standard NTSC 480i picture was horrible. Really, really bad. My $700 Sony camera could blow this $3000 gadget to pieces. Switching to 480p mode cleared the picture up significantly. Then, switching to HD made all the difference. The downconverted HD picture was sharp and had fine color. It’s obvious that the (single) CCD was optimized for the 720p (30fps) mode. Another interesting detail: the field of view was significantly different for the three modes, with HD mode providing the widest view, 480i is extremely truncated and blurry. It seems to me that the camera is simply using a subset of the CCD depending on the mode – for instance, in HD mode, the entire CCD is used. In 480i mode, it must just use the center part of the CCD, which means the picture is blurry and has a narrow field of view.
Considering that I really just want the HD capability and I am desperate to make my boundary stones documentary in HD, I think I could deal with the lackluster SD capability. But…
It doesn’t work with a Mac. The included software only runs on Windows XP; and all my high-priced editing software from Apple won’t let me import the MPEG2 transport stream used for HD. I can edit and produce HD content, but I can’t import or export it! I blame Apple for this idiocy. So, I would have two choices for achieving my goals: 1) buy a Windows XP computer to import/export the video from the camera and then transcode to Quicktime for use on the Mac; or 2) buy a $4000 uncompressed HD capture card and a serial adapter to import HD to the Mac; in which case I’d need hundreds upon hundreds of GB of disk space to store and edit uncompressed content.
Cripes.
No matter how easy or “consumer level” things are marketed to be, they never are. You can’t have all the pieces of the puzzle at once.

1 comment

  • The HD-1 is an amazing, high-quality camera that allows those of us with HD big screens the ability to shoot crystal-clear video that actually is formatted for our 16X9 sets. The camera shoots absolutely stunning high def shots and also shoots high quality anamorphic wide screen in standard definition. Yes, is won’t work with a mac but right now it is the only native 16X9 camcorder out there. The only drawback is that it shoots its high def in 30P frame mode…but even that is better than standard film at 24P!
    This camcorder is the start of the revolution and soon we’ll all be shooting in HD!

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