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  1. #1

    Hard drive vs. tape camcorders

    It was brought up in a recent thread that for "professional" results, you should stay away from hard drive based camcorders and go with tape based ones.

    My question is simple(ish): Why?

    I had a tape based Sony camcorder (DCR-TRV250 Digital8), and now own the one listed in my signature. The quality difference between the two is quite noticeable, although, I attribute that to my old camera not being HighDef based, and the technology having gotten better in the intervening years. I also find that using the hard drive is more convenient than tapes, both in physical storage space taken up by the tapes, as well as ease of deleting things off the camera that you don't want before it even gets downloaded to the PC. One last item is that since my original camera broke (which is why I got the new one), I no longer have a unit in which I can play my tapes, or re-capture them if I wished to do so, whereas with a hard drive based system, if the camera itself died, I could always pull the drive and read it directly if all else failed....

    I have a fairly extensive backup system in place for my captured video, so saving the videos for posterity (in original DV format) isn't an issue either.

    What most concerns me is the quality issue that was brought up. Could someone please expand upon that for me?

    Thanks in advance!
    Sony HDR-SR11 camcorder, FujiFilm FinePix S1Pro digital camera

  2. #2
    Hi Angel Knight

    Very simple! It's the format !!
    HDD based cameras have their data converted to an MPEG2 file so it's small enought to give you a reasonable amount of drive space. This video looks perfect on your TV of course and is the same format that you find on DVD's so it's great for shoot 'n watch operators.

    The problem arises when you need to edit the MPEG video because during the conversion process the orginal data is highly compressed in the camera and in fact only every 5th frame contains full video info!!
    By editing and rendering MPEG2 back to MPEG2 you will lose a fair amount of quality compared with DV-AVI to MPEG2.

    If you don't edit then a DVD or HDD camera is absolutely great!! If you want to edit then stick to a tape based camera where your native file will still be at 25mbs DV-AVI format


  3. #3
    AAACK! Oh, I wish I had known that.....

    Oh, well.... Live and learn I guess.... It's weird, though. When I've been editing my home videos in Sony Vegas, they seem like SUCH higher quality than the ones I used to capture off of the old camera, but I guess that's just an illusion. /sigh
    Sony HDR-SR11 camcorder, FujiFilm FinePix S1Pro digital camera

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jun 2008
    New York
    If you want the best of both worlds see for their DTE (direct to edit) recorders to see if your camera is compatible. I just picked up a FS-C, it's incredible.


  5. #5
    MetaBol, thank you for the link. I checked that site out, and it appears that what they do is have a device which is for tape-based machines, which then directly stores the video in whichever format you want on an internal hard drive which you can then directly put to the computer. This is very cool, but unfortunately, my tape-based camcorder no longer works, and it is kind of redundant with the camera I have now. But, thank you very much for the link! Interesting reading there.

    Chris, The format of the files as I get them directly off of the camera is as follows:
    ~(75)$ mediainfo 00005-22283997.MTS
    ID                               : 0
    Complete name                    : 00005-22283997.MTS
    Format                           : BDAV
    Format/Info                      : BluRay Video
    File size                        : 365 MiB
    Duration                         : 5mn 10s
    Overall bit rate                 : 9 864 Kbps
    Maximum Overall bit rate         : 18.0 Mbps
    ID                               : 4113 (0x1011)
    Menu ID                          : 1 (0x1)
    Format                           : AVC
    Format/Info                      : Advanced Video Codec
    Format profile                   : High@L4.0
    Format settings, CABAC           : Yes
    Format settings, ReFrames        : 2 frames
    Duration                         : 5mn 10s
    Bit rate                         : 9 207 Kbps
    Width                            : 1 440 pixels
    Height                           : 1 080 pixels
    Display aspect ratio             : 16/9
    Frame rate                       : 29.970 fps
    Resolution                       : 24 bits
    Colorimetry                      : 4:2:0
    Scan type                        : Interlaced
    Scan order                       : Top Field First
    ID                               : 4352 (0x1100)
    Menu ID                          : 1 (0x1)
    Format                           : AC-3
    Format/Info                      : Audio Coding 3
    Duration                         : 5mn 10s
    Bit rate mode                    : Constant
    Bit rate                         : 256 Kbps
    Channel(s)                       : 2 channels
    Channel positions                : L R
    Sampling rate                    : 48.0 KHz
    Video delay                      : -818ms
    ID                               : 4608 (0x1200)
    Menu ID                          : 1 (0x1)
    Format                           : PGS
    Video delay                      : -132ms
    So, from the looks of things, it's slightly better than MPEG2 (9.9Mbps vs 6), but it's still not 25 by any stretch.... Am I correct in thinking that the "ReFrames" field above is the full frame save setting? In other words, my camera is saving a full frame every 2 frames instead of the standard 5 with MPEG2? Or am I all wet in that assumption? :-P

    That video was shot using the Medium settings on the camera for quality, so I am going to look some more at those settings to see if I can get it set to use full DV format.... Will fill more in later.

    If anyone has anything else to add (i.e. if they have this camera, or experience with it), let me know.

    Thanks for the responses folks!

    Update: It appears that I have the following settings available to me: HD FH (16 Mbps), HD HQ (9 Mbps), HD SP (7 Mbps), and HD LP (5 Mbps). The video I mentioned earlier was done using the "HD HQ" setting, which still looks pretty darn good when viewing on my computer and on the TV (HDMI connection to computer, which is playing the edited file, which I rendered in XViD format). Would the HD FH format be "good enough" for doing most types of videos, even wedding videos? I know that doing "professional" work (i.e., for a news company or something like that) with non-full-DV format wouldn't be acceptable, but for everything else? What do you folks think?
    Last edited by AngelKnight; 15th Feb 2009 at 19:21. Reason: Update with more information
    Sony HDR-SR11 camcorder, FujiFilm FinePix S1Pro digital camera


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