Q. Digital Duping Dilemma
I would like to copy and edit from my DV camcorder to another DV camcorder. If the original cassette was recorded with a 3-CCD camcorder, and I am going to copy and edit it to another camcorder which has only 1-CCD, will the result have the same quality as the original? Is it important in which camcorder I play back and in which I record?
A. Don’t worry, Shaul. As long as you make your dub with the FireWire cable, your copy will look exactly the same as your original. Digital is digital. Once you’ve recorded what your camera "sees," the data stream will remain the same and will play back exactly the same from any Mini DV format device.
Shooting, however, is another story. The number of CCDs (and the quality of your lens) only impact the video recorded onto the original tape and do not relate to tape to tape transfers. It will not matter which camera you playback or record to if you are transferring a pre-recorded tape from camera to camera via FireWire. You are simply making a mirror copy of the bit stream, you are not adding or subtracting any information from it. When you originally defined that video information with your 3-CCD camera you recorded an optimal representation of that light and color information as a digital word and that digital word remains intact.
Q. Behind the Digital8 Ball
I have an almost ten-year-old Sony Hi8 camcorder. I understand that the new Digital8 camcorders will play my old analog Hi8 tapes. I know that with an i.LINK (FireWire) capture board for my computer, I will be able to edit the new Digital8 tapes. My question is: can I run my old analog Hi8 tapes on the Digital8 camcorder and enter them in digital form to my computer for editing, or do I still need to an additional capture board for the analog tapes? I do not want to spend hundreds or even thousands of dollars to find out my system does not work or gives me inferior results. Do you have any advice?
A. Yes, a Digital8 camcorder will act as the digitizer to convert your analog Hi8 tapes for editing on your FireWire-equipped computer. Realize that your analog footage will not change in quality for the better in this process, it will merely be converted to digital data. When you record your edited project back to tape, you’ll record a digital signal (Digital8). This will help to preserve the life of your footage and allow for lossless copies of your master tape via the FireWire (i.LINK/IEEE 1394) connection.
To capture footage to your computer from a Digital8 camcorder (be it a Sony or Hitachi) you will need a FireWire card. Installing one is not at complicated as installing an analog digitizer card (there are inherently fewer conflicts with digital capture cards than with analog digitizer cards). Nonetheless, we recommend that you have computer components integrated into your system by a professional (doing so may save you time and money in the end). A "buyer beware" in relation to all FireWire cards is the compatibility issue with your particular camera. Make sure that the card you purchase supports the Digital8 camera with the proper driver. Many cards will capture video and control the camera transport to a variable degree but will be erratic and unpredictable unless they have been configured for that camera make and model.
Q. Pixels or Chips?
Can you tell me which is more important in a camcorder: the number of CCDs it has or the total number of pixels on each CCD?
A. Many focus on pixel count as the bar to measure resolution. Only so many pixels can be displayed on an NTSC monitor and separation of color becomes as important if not more when it comes to how great your footage actually looks on screen. A 3-CCD camera uses a prism to separate incoming light into red, green and blue components. This parsing out of the spectrum improves your image’s color separation and ultimately affects resolution. A 1-CCD camera composites color information and light value onto a single imaging chip.
The total number of pixels on a $25,000 professional 3-CCD camera doesn’t come close to that of one of the new sub-$2,000 single-CCD cameras boasting one million pixels. Pixel count is not the catchall in resolution. The pros are not paying more for less and that’s a fact.