[FoRK] article on HDTV video shoot in Bangalore

Rohit Khare rohit at ics.uci.edu
Mon Apr 26 12:01:14 PDT 2004


HDV in India
 By Steve Mullen
Video Systems, Mar 1, 2004

An exercise in shooting and editing in HDV while on the road.

Shortly after arriving in Chennai, (Madras) India, I went off to my 
favorite bookstore to look for video magazines from the UK. I did find 
the usual home theater (naturally with nada on HD) and camcorder 
magazines. But this time I also encountered a new Indian A/V magazine 
that had reviews of several plasma displays now on sale in the country. 
After looking through both U.S. and UK Mac magazines, I found an audio 
magazine with a story on climbing Mount Rainier with a JVC JY-HD10. It 
sparked my interest in writing a story on shooting and editing HDV in 
India. Because I had brought a JVC GR-HD1 along with my trusty 800MHz 
G3 iBook, I had the necessary technology.

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Armed with a JVC GR-HD1 and an 800MHz G3 iBook, Steve Mullen 
successfully shot and edited footage of a four-person musical group.

Before I left for India I had thought I'd get a full week in Bangalore, 
my favorite Indian city. Bangalore, located in the south of India, is 
the city where computer technology has exploded over the past decade. I 
expected to have time to shoot a short piece on the ?New India.? 
Unfortunately, after two family weddings, the Bangalore trip was 
reduced to only a few days, ruling out any serious shooting. 
Thankfully, at one of the weddings I had shot a traditional wedding 
band that captured my interest because of its very complex drumming.

The four-person group was seated on the floor and lit by both blue 
fluorescent lamps and indirect daylight. The natural light came from 
one side, while the interior illumination came uniformly from the 
ceiling. The result was a nearly perfect ? for the HD1's small 
high-density CCD ? low-contrast situation. Because the light level was 
not high, the camera automatically chose an exposure of 1/30 to 1/60 
second. This meant that I had two exposure-control options. I could use 
the camcorder's Exposure button to lock exposure while also, as 
necessary, biasing the exposure lighter or darker. This is the shooting 
technique I recommend in my HDV Shooting Guide. Naturally, I didn't 
follow my own advice.

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HDV is not simply "High-Definition" DV. Among the differences is HDV's 
use of inter-frame compression, MPEG-2 audio, and the larger amount of 
pixels it uses.

Instead, after noting the auto-exposure was spot on, I simply set the 
shutter-speed to 1/30 second. Doing so accomplished two goals. First, 
using a slow shutter thereby minimized the aperture, so depth-of-field 
was maximized, which made achieving focus slightly less demanding. 
Second, it kept eye-tracking artifacts to a minimum. (See ?High-Rate 
Progressive,? Video Systems, Feb. 2004.)

The same lighting illuminated a nearby white plastic chair, so I 
manually white-balanced the HD1 on it. A quick check of the viewfinder 
revealed a slightly warm image ? thankfully free of any blue or green 
tint. I quickly decided the warmth was an appropriate ?look? for the 
subject matter. (The LCD ?reads? warm so the video was not too warm.)

Because the overhead lighting was not super bright, I was able to use 
the camcorder's 200,000 pixel LCD. (I've yet to use the camcorder's 
tiny viewfinder.) For close shots, I used manual focus. I had no 
problem achieving focus ? although it did take 5 to 10 seconds of 
effort. When focus is achieved, the image ?pops? in the LCD, so the 
time required was primarily used in locating something not moving. This 
is important because at 1/30 second, moving images have an inherent 
blur. For wide shots, I simply engaged the AF system for about 10 
seconds.

Because I wanted stereo audio, I used the HD1's internal mic. While 
shooting, I often positioned myself very close to one of the other 
drums. Because they were very loud, I was worried audio might be 
clipped. The GR-HD1, unlike the JY-HD10, has no audio-level indicator. 
So I had no way of knowing until I later converted MPEG-compressed 
audio to AIFF files. The conversion software tallies the number clipped 
samples. JVC's AGC prevented any clipped samples.

I shot about 20 minutes of HD video, just perfect for working with my 
iBook's half-full 20GB disk. Although every hour of DV requires 13GB of 
storage space, an hour of HDV amazingly requires only 9GB. Thus, my 20 
minutes could be captured and still leave more than 6GB free.

Final Cut Pro 3.0 was already installed on the iBook. And I had brought 
a copy of my HDVcinema Pro bundle on CD-ROM. After installing this 
software, I was ready to edit. However, I didn't have time to begin 
editing until a few days before I returned to the United States. After 
the weddings and the trip to Bangalore, it was time to help my in-laws 
get settled in a new flat. Although this didn't offer an opportunity to 
shoot video of the New India, it did provide several experiences. Many 
of you may have heard horror stories of its taking months to obtain 
phone service in India. That was in the ?Old India.? One week from the 
call-in request, a phone was delivered at the promised hour. The desk 
phone uses CDMA technology to deliver Wireless Local Loop service that 
costs about the same as a landline.

In the United States we have our own horror stories about waiting for 
the cable guy. From the time of the request for Chennai cable service 
to the installation ? 24 hours. And, the guy showed up at the requested 
time! About 60 channels are available, including CNN, CNBC, HBO, 
Discovery, and National Geographic. Many hit USA network shows are also 
available. Naturally, no HD programming is on hand, although when I 
visited the local Sony World, they were marketing a 57in. 16:9 HDTV. 
(In India, HD DVDs will likely be the path for high-definition 
programming.) On a similar note, Chennai's Real Image and Prasad Film 
Group (www.real-image.com/digital.asp) are cooperating in marketing a 
digital cinema system. The system, the same used by the Landmark 
theaters in the United States, uses Windows Media 9 and plays frame 
rates from 24fps to 60fps. Good news for those shooting 720p30 HDV.

To capture HDV, I simply connected a FireWire cable between my HD1 and 
the iBook. The use of FireWire, plus the fact MiniDV tape is used, 
makes it easy for folks to think of HDV as simply ?High-Definition? DV. 
There are, however, significant differences that make HDV editing very 
different from DV editing. Although these differences will be smoothed 
over by coming generations of software, they will not disappear. There 
are three crucial differences. First, HDV uses inter-frame compression, 
while DV does not. Second, HDV audio is MPEG-2, not PCM. And third, the 
number of pixels is either 2.7X (1280×720) or 4.5X (1440×1080) the 
number of pixels employed by DV.

All these differences lead to the need for a huge amount of computation 
to accomplish editing. This need can be satisfied in several ways. One 
alternative breaks the task into less computationally intensive steps, 
which is the approach used by HDVcinema. HDVcinema uses a technique 
many of us used with Premiere 4.2 when our Quadra systems weren't 
powerful enough ? proxy video editing.

Aspect HD from CineForm takes a very different approach ? transcode 
MPEG-2 to another format (Wavelet) that can be processed far more 
efficiently. This approach enables more than four HDV streams to be 
edited in realtime.

MediaStudio Pro LE MPEG Edit Studio Pro LE v. 1.2, a ?native? HDV 
editor, restricts the number of HDV streams to two and works directly 
with a captured MPEG-2 transport stream. With a powerful enough 
computer, this approach seems optimal to me. One has to wonder if Apple 
and/or Avid will take this approach.

Like all current approaches to HDV editing, you begin by using a 
standalone FireWire capture application. (I used Apple's DVHScap.) 
Unlike DV capture utilities, no onscreen sound or image is available 
from these capture applications. With the JVC camcorder, you use the 
LCD (or an NTSC or HD monitor connected by a component analog cable).

A serious shortcoming of the JVC camcorders is that no timecode is sent 
through FireWire with the MPEG transport stream. That means ?marking? a 
single segment for capture is not possible. Nor is batch capture. Even 
worse, because it makes using Apple's OfflineRT codec more difficult, 
batch recapture from an edited production is not possible.

Once I captured the 20 minutes of source material, I used the HDVbridge 
utility in HDVcinema to ?demux? the transport stream file into MPEG-1 
Layer II (MP2) audio and MPEG-2 video files. Unfortunately, while FCP 
will import MP3 files, it will not import the MP2 files used by HDV. 
That means an HDVcinema-supported utility must be used to convert MP2 
files to AIFF files. Clearly, with adequate computer power, both 
demuxing and audio conversion could be performed during the capture. 
And this is exactly what XtractorHDV supplied in the Indie HD Toolkit 
from Heuris does.

After demuxing by HDVbridge or XtractorHDV, the resulting MPEG-2 video 
poses a problem. In a white paper, Heuris states, ?Final Cut Pro does 
not natively read MPEG-2 content. This means that in order to perform 
realtime editing, the sequence will have to be rendered to a format 
that is native to Final Cut Pro. For best quality, we recommend using 
no compression.? Unfortunately, each 60-minute cassette will require 
300GB of hard disk storage. Using this technique, my 20 minutes would 
have required 100GB.

Thankfully, Apple already provides a solution ? OfflineRT compression. 
I used an HDVcinema Pro supported utility to batch process the MPEG-2 
files to OfflineRT files. In the future, FCP could support this task 
during FireWire capture ? as long as the Mac had sufficient CPU power 
and disk bandwidth. This is an ideal time to do so because the decoded 
audio can be placed directly into the OfflineRT file. And of course, 
there's no reason the capture/demux function can't be integrated into 
the NLE itself.

After importing audio and video files, I edited a one-minute piece 
exactly as I would using DV. Then I replaced the OfflineRT source files 
with the original MPEG-2 files. Next, I exported the timeline as an 
uncompressed movie. (The movie used 5GB.) Heuris has another approach. 
Its XportHD QuickTime plug-in encodes an MPEG-2 transport stream 
directly from an FCP timeline, thus dramatically reducing movie storage 
requirements. And while its XtoHD utility will record this file to 
D-VHS, it will not record back to an HDV camcorder or the new JVC 
portable HDV deck.

Now, using additional HDVcinema-supported tools, I encoded the 
uncom-pressed movie to an MPEG-2 video and then converted it to an HDV 
transport stream. Next, I used DVHScap to transfer the transport 
stream, via FireWire, back to the GR-HD1. Clearly, these functions 
could be integrated into an HD capable version of Apple's Composer.

I also converted the MPEG-2 Time-line to a DV Sequence and recorded it 
via FireWire to the GR-HD1. When I returned to home, I also recorded 
the HD video to D-VHS. If I'd had a PowerBook with a SuperDrive, I 
could have used HDVcinema tools to burn a widescreen or letterboxed DVD 
without using DVD Studio 2 or Toast.

To show my one-minute masterpiece, I located a multi-system TV ? an 
easy task in India ? and connected it to the HD1. By selecting the ?ALL 
TO 480i? to a ?4:3 monitor? modes on the camcorder, my movie played 
back perfectly in letterboxed widescreen with stereo sound. Success!

Two things are clear to me. The first few years of the HDV revolution 
will find a confusing set of editing techniques marketed. And you can 
bet each will be promoted as the ?best.? In short, HDV's introduction 
will mimic that of the introduction of DV. This means a very fluid 
situation for buyers. For example, I've now released HDVcinema Partner, 
which is designed to work with the Heuris Indie HD Toolkit to provide a 
comprehensive solution. These packages will likely ? at some point in 
the future ? be replaced by solutions from Apple and Avid. Avid, for 
example, has already announced it will support the critically important 
Windows Media 9 HD encoder.

But more important, it's clear that even at this early stage of HDV 
postproduc-tion ? whether you work with a 3.4GHz Pentium 4 PC or an 
iBook ? HDV editing can be accomplished. And from the folks I talk 
with, accomplished in a highly profitable way.
feedback

To comment on this article, email the Video Systems editorial staff at 
vsfeedback at primediabusiness.com.




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